Posted by: reefrescue | February 18, 2010

Coral reefs rebound in conservation zones

New study finds Marine Protected Areas help prevent decline of coral reefs

UNC CHAPEL HILL (US)—Underwater parks where fishing and other potentially harmful activities are regulated—known as marine protected areas (MPAs)—provide an added bonus: They help coral reef ecosystems ward off and recover from threats to their health, a new worldwide study shows.

Researchers also found the protective effects of MPAs generally strengthen over time. The findings, published in the Feb. 17 issue of the journal PLoS One, stem from the first comprehensive global study to gauge the impact of marine protected areas on the health of corals.

Such havens have proved successful in protecting fish, leading to optimism among researchers that they may also indirectly help corals by restoring reef-based food webs. Previous studies also suggested that such conservation zones can directly protect reefs from problems such as overfishing, anchor damage, and sediment and nutrient runoff pollution from adjacent land.

Marine scientists Elizabeth Selig and John Bruno from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill analyzed a global database of 8,534 live coral cover surveys conducted between 1969 and 2006. They compared changes in coral cover in 310 marine protected areas to those in nearby unprotected areas, looking at 4,456 reefs in 83 countries. Coral cover, or the percentage of the ocean floor covered by living coral tissue, is a key measure of the health of coral ecosystems.

“We found that, on average, coral cover in protected areas remained constant, but declined on unprotected reefs,” says Selig, the study’s lead author (read more…)

Link to Research Article:

A Global Analysis of the Effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas in Preventing Coral Loss, Elizabeth R. Selig, John F. Bruno

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